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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Birds| ▸ |Owl||View Options:  |  |  | 

Owls on Ancient Coins

Owls are depicted on many different ancient coin types but the most prolific types are the coins of ancient Athens. The ancient slang names for the coins of Athens were "owls" (but in Greek of course) and "girls" (referring to Athena on the obverse, also in Greek). "Owls" were so popular as a central currency of the ancient world that the design remained essentially unchanged and somewhat archaic long after other cities began to produce coins of a more refined artistic style. "Owls" of Athens are still very popular. For collectors, they are perhaps the most popular ancient coin type.

Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 454 - 404 B.C., Old Style Tetradrachm

|Athens|, |Athens,| |Attica,| |Greece,| |c.| |454| |-| |404| |B.C.,| |Old| |Style| |Tetradrachm||tetradrachm|
The old-style tetradrachm of Athens is famous for its almond shaped eye, archaic smile, and charming owl reverse. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena's helmet. On the reverse, a crescent moon was added.

During the period 449 - 413 B.C. huge quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance grandiose building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.
SH71597. Silver tetradrachm, SNG Cop 31, SNG Munchen 49, Kroll 8, Dewing 1611, Gulbenkian 519, HGC 4 1597, SGCV I 2526, VF, no test cuts, nice Athena and owl, toned, well centered on a tight flan, as usual crest off flan, light marks and scratches, weight 17.042 g, maximum diameter 25.7 mm, die axis 135o, Athens mint, c. 454 - 404 B.C. (probably close to 404 B.C.); obverse head of Athena right, almond shaped eye, crested helmet with olive leaves and floral scroll, wire necklace, round earring, hair in parallel curves; reverse owl standing right, head facing, erect in posture, olive sprig and crescent left, AΘE downward on right, all within incuse square; SOLD


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 146 - 145 B.C., New Style Tetradrachm

|Athens|, |Athens,| |Attica,| |Greece,| |c.| |146| |-| |145| |B.C.,| |New| |Style| |Tetradrachm||stephanophoric| |tetradrachm|
This issue does not appear to have been struck with letters on the amphora.

Thompson catalog numbers indicate the obverse die. Reverses for each obverse are indicated by a letter. For this obverse die, Thompson does not record a reverse with the control letters EY.
SH54908. Silver stephanophoric tetradrachm, Thompson 131 var. (EY not listed); Svoronos Athens pl. 43, 3 var. (same obverse die, KTH below on rev), VF, rough cleaning, weight 16.647 g, maximum diameter 32.9 mm, die axis 0o, Athens mint, obverse head of Athena Parthenos right, wearing crested helmet ornamented with Pegasos and the fore-parts of four or more horses; reverse A−ΘE, owl standing right on amphora, wings closed, head facing, XAPI left, HPA over cock with palm frond right, EY below, all within olive wreath; areas of light corrosion, flat strike areas; scarce; SOLD


Athens, Attica, Greece, c. 105 - 104 B.C., New Style Tetradrachm

|Athens|, |Athens,| |Attica,| |Greece,| |c.| |105| |-| |104| |B.C.,| |New| |Style| |Tetradrachm||tetradrachm|
"The head of Athena on the new tetradrachms was certainly suggested by that of the colossal chryselephantine statue by Pheidias in the Parthenon, described by Pausanias (i. 24. 5) as having on each side of the helmet a griffin, and in the midst a sphinx. On the coins the griffin is frequently replaced by a flying Pegasos; the sphinx does not appear, but in its place, the fore-parts of four or more horses, which Pausanias omits to mention, but which must have been a leading feature in the model which the die-engraver had in his mind." -- Historia Numorum by Barclay Head
SH08314. Silver tetradrachm, Svoronos 64, Boehringer 60, VF, weight 16.43 g, maximum diameter 30.3 mm, die axis 0o, Athens mint, c. 105 - 104 B.C.; obverse Helmeted head of Athena Parthenos right; reverse A−ΘE / HPA−KΛE/I∆HΣ / EYK/ΛHΣ / XAP∆, owl standing right on amphora on its side, on right winged Tyche with Amphora, uncertain letter on amphora, ME beneath, all within olive wreath; SOLD







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REFERENCES|

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